Captain Ahab’s Daughter: Part 2

Growing up, my family would caravan with a couple of other families, by boat, to the Bahamas for about three weeks every summer. I wrote about this a bit over here.  Along the way, we met with some Very High Seas, indeed.  Captain Ahab liked to call it “a little boat chop”.  Right, Nana?  And now, as an adult, I find myself understanding his comic use of understatement in those moments.  The following are some of the things I remember most from those boat trips on the way over to the islands.

It started the same way every single year. We all rolled out of bed bleary eyed bright eyed and bushy-tailed at 5:00 a.m.  Captain Ahab would head over to the beach and check the horizon;“Red sky at dawn, sailors warn. Red sky at night, sailors delight.”, and all that business.  If it was a go, he’d call the other families and say, “It’s a go.”

We almost always had chocolate milk and either frosted or chocolate “donettes” before loading up on the boats.  Sometimes, the Captain would make an early run to the donut shop and we’d get fresh-baked, far healthier donuts.

I believe our three or four families single-handedly kept Coppertone in business.

We drank a lot of Coca-Colas and ate a lot of Cheezits.

Anytime someone spotted a Dolphin (the “Flipper” variety), they’d get on the “horn” (radio) and announce to the entire marine community that, “There’s a dolphin! Right over there! Look!!”; because, surely, wherever in the great Atlantic ocean any other boaters were, they, too, could see our dolphin.

Keeping count of how many Flying Fish you saw was akin to the licence plate game on road trips.

We drank a lot of Dr. Peppers and ate a lot of Oreos.

Once we were old enough to do so, the adults and smallest kids would caravan in the first two or three boats (read that, the bigger boats), and they’d let us three or four oldest kids take the “dingy”. Now, this dingy was a 13′ Boston Whaler.  It wasn’t a canoe.  But when you are facing 2-4 foot seas, for three hours, it’s a bit daunting.  There were moments where we would be cresting a wave and that little boat would dip down into a crevice and I would almost swear that The Parents were all watching, a little too intently, to see if the next wave was going to slam the oblivion out of us, or if we’d make it out.  Alive. My Sweetbrother would yell “YEEHAW!” at the top of his lungs and just forge ahead through those waves like they were so many flowers in a field and he was a lawn mower.  But some of us, (me), would be holding on for dear life and wondering what in the Sam Hill we (I) did to deserve this torture?

As we became older and more stupid adventurous, we took some risks that make me shudder as a parent.  If it was a flat calm ride over, we would stop in the middle of the inky-blue 1,000-plus foot deep seas and water ski for a bit.  Yes,  water ski.  Halfway between South Florida and the Bahamas.  In the midst of the Bermuda Triangle. There.  With water skis.  And Stupidity. And, just for the record, guess what movie was number one at the box office back then?  Yup… Jaws.

One year, one of Ahab’s oldest friends, (who happened to be one of the country’s top Navy Underwater Research Diver’s at the time), and his wife, accompanied us on our yearly trip.  This poor guy’s wife was so seasick the entire trip over. The adults gave him such a hard time, cracking jokes about how “Aqua-Man” ended up with a seasick wife; only, as it turned out, the poor thing was pregnant.  So, in an act of mercy, the adults flew her back on a Chalk’s Seaplane.  So she’d be comfortable.  Because Lord knows, there’s nothing more comfortable, for a first-trimester pregnancy, than a ride on a seaplane.

When we finally arrived, the kids waited while the adults cleared everyone through customs.  And, it’s a miracle that the Bahamian authorities kept letting us come back every year.  I’m fairly certain they hurried us through customs just to stop all the caterwauling.  Or broke out the Rum as soon as they spied our boats entering their waters.  I know the parents did.

And here we are twenty-some-odd years later, and I get it.  Once again, I see the wisdom in letting kids have an “adventure” once in a while, to break up the monotony.  I now understand that teaching children games to play while on boat trips car-rides is just good parent sense.  And knowing that what lies at the end of the journey will trump even a horrible journey is a gift we give to our kids. Yes indeedy!

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